Dallas Cowboys can drop below salary cap for 2022 in a few moves
Every offseason, we tend to find the same old analysis. The Dallas Cowboys have problems with the salary cap. The Dallas Cowboys will not be able to sign free agents. Rinse and repeat. While it’s true that the Cowboys are currently over the salary cap, there are a few steps they can take quite easily to remedy the situation. They could even free up money to pursue “named” free agents if they wanted to, although they never seem to want to.
There are various estimates of the Cowboys going over the cap, but the OverTheCap.com site currently has them listed at around $21 million. In their roster, only the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints are significantly above the cap than Dallas.
With the stroke of a pen, or a few pens, the Cowboys can be under the cap. You can bet that’s what Stephen Jones will do because that’s what he does every year. The Cowboys will restructure the contracts of some of their stars now earning some relief by pushing cash down the road.
You can believe they’re going to restructure Dak Prescott. Her contract was built to be restructured to provide more ceiling space. If the Cowboys decide to go through with the restructuring of his deal, they will save just over $15 million from the 2022 cap.
Then there are others. One decision that appears to be up in the air is whether to restructure Amari Cooper or just release him. Bobby Belt did a fantastic job laying out the potential savings the Cowboys could get by restructuring/cutting/trading many of their big salary players. If you’re interested in seeing the full picture, it’s worth reading.
Here’s what Belt has to say about Cooper.
Unlike most big-money deals, the Cowboys would save more money with an outright exit, before June 1, than they would with restructuring his deal. This makes Cooper a prime target for release.
If the Cowboys restructure Cooper’s deal, they could release up to $12.5 million in savings. If they released him before June 1, they would save $16 million, and they could get up to $20 million in savings if they marked him as a release after June 1.
This particular decision took a lot of oxygen, especially since Jerry Jones obliquely criticized Cooper in his infamous interview after the loss to the 49ers.
“I have no comment on Cooper’s contract,” Jones said Friday. “I thought the way we were playing early when we were making things happen, I thought Cooper was a big part of it. And I’m not ordinary. But since he fits in, he should take half the pitch with him when he goes down a route. Not half – half is an exaggeration, of course, but a whole bunch of that defense should honor Cooper. And he should be able to catch it in the middle of when they go with him. Others do. You pitch to people who are covered all the time in the NFL. You have to. Most people don’t have the number of receivers we had.
By almost everyone’s guess, the Cowboys’ offense, and Dak Prescott in particular, was better with Cooper involved. It seems a little crazy that they cut it outright unless they have some sort of plan to replace it with a proven, high quality receiver. But they could restructure it to save over $12 million, which seems more logical.
Between Prescott and Cooper, the Cowboys could fit comfortably under the cap. They also have other options. As Bobby Belt notes, DeMarcus Lawrence hit a cap of $27 million for 2022, and the Cowboys can’t keep him on the books at that number. Given that Lawrence is getting older and his sack count isn’t bouncing back, there have even been discussions outside of the organization about his release. More likely, though, given everything Lawrence gives the Cowboys on defense, they would restructure him. They could save up to $12 million by doing this, but his 2023 figure would swell.
The Cowboys can also make moves with guys like Tyron Smith, Zack Martin or La’el Collins to free up more cap space. And there are decisions to be made around players like Blake Jarwin or Anthony Brown who could also free up space.
The Cowboys have options. Obviously, you’d want to be under the cap instead of over it, and doing these options pushes the issue further down the road where you hope to be relieved by a league-wide salary cap increase. But the Cowboys do it every year.
Stephen Jones will put the Cowboys under the hat, then he’ll go bargain-hunting in free agency. Like before.